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Top 10 Oregon Attractions

Oregon's Best Visitor Attractions

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Oregon offers a wealth of fun things to see and do. This Northwest state is an amazing place for a long list of reasons, including its rugged coast, mountain playgrounds, wild rivers, artisan food and drink, colorful culture, and significant history. You'll also find high desert, volcanic landscapes, rocky canyons, and vast wetlands. Oregon's natural wonders and colorful past provide interesting attractions for you to visit and explore.

Here are my picks for the top 10 Oregon attractions:

1. Historic Columbia River Highway

Loops in the Old Columbia Gorge Highway
Bob Pool/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images
The first section of the scenic Columbia River Highway, which ran between Portland and The Dalles, originally opened in 1915. One of the first American highways designed specifically for scenic touring, it final 350-mile length (from Astoria to Pendleton) was finished in 1921. A section of this historic highway has been preserved, with portions still available to automobiles along US Highway 30, and other portions open to bikers and hikers. The western drivable section, which runs from Troutdale to Multnomah Falls, is a fabulous Oregon attraction and should not be missed. You'll want to stop often along the way to check out scenic viewpoints, hike to and around grand waterfalls, and take in the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge.

2. Crater Lake National Park

Wizard Island in Crater Lake
Wizard Island in Crater Lake (source: iStockphoto)
Located in southern Oregon, Crater Lake is a wonder both for its beauty and for its natural history. The lake fills a volcanic caldera, formed when Mount Mazama erupted over 7,500 years ago. Visitors marvel at Crater Lake's amazing clarity and brilliant blue color. A scenic drive circles the rim of the caldera, with dramatic overlooks, picnic sites, visitor centers, and other attractions along the way. Hiking trails or a boat tour are other popular ways to enjoy the beauty of Crater Lake National Park.
Crater Lake National Park Photo Gallery

3. Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Elizabethan Theatre in Ashland Oregon
Elizabethan Theatre in Ashland Oregon (Jennifer Donahoe)
The world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which runs from mid-February to October each year, takes place in the charming town of Ashland. You'll have the opportunity to take in both classic and contemporary plays at Ashland's various venues. Backstage tours, lectures, informal talks, and workshops and classes are available for Shakespeare lovers. While in Ashland, you'll also be able to enjoy great local dining, shopping, and parks as well as year-round recreation among Southern Oregon's mountains, rivers, and lakes.

4. Cascade Lakes Highway

Designated as both an American Scenic Byway and an Oregon Scenic Byway, this 66-mile driving tour takes you through volcanic landscapes, into the mountains, and around lakes and rivers. The route begins in Bend, Oregon, and heads west around Mount Bachelor, then south past lakes large and small. You'll find plenty of places to stop for a hike, a paddle, some fishing, a picnic, or to just sit and absorb the gorgeous scenery.

5. Lewis & Clark National Historical Park

Replica of Fort Clatsop ©Angela M. Brown (2007)
Replica of Fort Clatsop
The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park is comprised of 12 different units in the states of Oregon and Washington. The Fort Clatsop Visitor Center is the major Oregon site to visit; the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park Interpretive Center is in Cape Disappointment State Park across the river in Washington. There are a number of fun things to do at the Fort Clatsop site. You'll want to spend time in the visitor center, checking out the informative exhibits, great films, and quality book store. Follow this with some outdoor exploration of the reproduced Fort Clatsop and the nature trails to Lewis and Clark sites of note.

6. National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

Photo of the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City OR
Angela M. Brown
The incredible effort and hardships of the people that blazed the Oregon Trail is one of America's great stories. The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center is located at a key site along the actual route, where wagon trains first glimpsed the Blue Mountains, yet another great challenge before reaching the fertile land west of the mountains. Fun things to see and do inside the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center include informative exhibits, artifacts, multimedia presentations, and fabulous views. Outside you can get your own taste of life on the Oregon Trail through living history demonstrations, covered wagon exhibits, and by hiking the four-plus miles of interpretive trails.

7. Astoria Column

Astoria Column ©Angela M. Brown 2010
Astoria Column
Completed in 1926, the Astoria Column commemorates the city's significant role in US history. The murals that wind up and around the column depict such important events as the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the destruction of the ship "Tonquin," the first Astorians, and the arrival of the railroad. A spiral staircase inside the column takes adventurous visitors to a viewing platform at the top. Whether you take that climb or not, you'll enjoy outstanding views of the town of Astoria, the mouth of the great Columbia River, and nearby lakes, rivers, and mountains.

8. Columbia River Maritime Museum

Picture of the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria Oregon © Angela M. Brown
Columbia River Maritime Museum
Yet another Astoria attraction to make this list, the Columbia River Maritime Museum offers indoor and outdoor exhibits covering a wide range of topics relevant to the Northwest's maritime past and present. Early European exploration, the fishing industry, Coast Guard activity and vessels, and lighthouses are all covered. Considerable attention is paid to the Columbia River itself, including its many hazards.

9. Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum

The Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum is actually a complex of indoor and outdoor attractions and activities. The Space Museum building houses such artifacts as missiles, rockets and rocket boosters, a Mercury Space Capsule, replicas of the Apollo Command Module and Lunar Module, satellites, and more. Aircraft and related hardware can be found inside and outside the Aviation building, where the huge wooden Spruce Goose looms over artifacts and displays covering general and military aviation. Another building houses Evergreen's very large IMAX theatre. The new, aviation-themed Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark, which opened in 2011, is yet another family-friendly attraction on the site.

10. Washington Park in Portland

Zoo Train Station for the Washington Park and Zoo Railway ©Angela M. Brown (2009)
Zoo Train Station for the Washington Park and Zoo Railway in Portland's Washington Park
Portland's Washington Park is a hub of interesting and family-friendly attractions, including the Oregon Zoo, the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum, the Portland International Rose Test Garden, the Portland Japanese Garden, the Portland Children's Museum, and the Hoyt Arboretum. You can spend an entire day, or more, exploring these attractions, as well as Washington Park's hiking trails, playgrounds, and other open spaces.

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